“The Lights of Learning and Reason”


In the undelivered speech he intended to give at the Dallas Trade Mart on November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy wrote, “In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”

We live in a complex and difficult world but we should realize that the world has always been complex and difficult.  Historically, when people feel that the challenges that they face in their own generation and lives are becoming insurmountable they tend to look for a cause for their pain, dissatisfaction, hurt or difficulty.  They often decide that the cause is some “other person” or group of people and they become susceptible to believing the “simple solutions to every world problem” that those who confuse “rhetoric with reality” put forward.  

Kennedy went on to say, “There have always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternative, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.

But today other voices are heard in the land — voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without policy, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will “talk sense to the American people.” But we can hope that fewer people will listen to this nonsense.”

We now live in the world that Kennedy foretold.  The problem with that world is that leaders who are not grounded in reality and the possible put forth simplistic solutions that frankly, will not work.  Complex problems are rarely, if ever solved with simplistic solutions. The issues that our communities, country, and world faces can only start to be addressed from a foundation of reality and resolved only through cooperation and compromise.  Yet our leaders reject reality, cooperation, and compromise in favor of ignorant tribalism and demonizing any who opposes their entrenched positions.  Worst of all, more, not fewer people listen to this nonsense.  This isn’t a Republican, Democrat or Independent problem, it is a problem in all of politics.

What a different nation we would have if we all acknowledged that there are good ideas and solutions on both sides of the divide, if we admitted that people on both sides believe they are acting in good faith and none are intrinsically “evil.”  When was the last time we turned off cable news and actually tried to understand the content of opposing views and looked for any points where compromise and conciliation could take place?  

We face an election in a few short weeks.  It is an opportunity for each of us to stop listening to the nonsense and to put away the hope that solutions that are simple and disconnected with reality have any chance to work.  It is up to each of us to carefully consider how our individual representatives and (where they are running for reelection) our senators view the world.  Regardless of party, if they believe the messy, complex, and ever changing world can be addressed through blaming the “other person” or implementing solutions that are little more than pablum; they should be tossed out in favor of serious minded individuals who are willing and able to do the hard work of devising solutions through negotiation and compromise.  

We get the government that we elect and therefore deserve.  Our clear lack of satisfaction with the Congress and the occupants of the White House over many years means we are not choosing wisely.  Most Americans vote along straight party lines and that is just not rational.  It is not possible that all Republicans are better than any Democrat or all Democrats are better than any Republican.  There are good and bad choices on both sides.  We have been choosing leaders who unfortunately are not guided by the “lights of learning and reason” but rather those whose calls to tribalism and mindless adherence to party have led us to where we are.


Join me, open your arms to Migrants and Refugees – #ShareTheJourney

On Wednesday, Pope Francis led an inspiring launch of #SharetheJourney, a global, two-year campaign in support of migrants and refugees.  He opened his arms wide in a loving gesture and said, “Christ urges us to welcome our brothers and sisters with our arms truly open, ready for a sincere embrace, a loving and enveloping embrace.”

Migrants and refugees are not after our jobs, our lives or our culture.  They are looking with hope toward a brighter future for their families in collaboration and with integration into their new homeland; just as my ancestors sought the same in the mid-1700’s.  Their plight is little different from those in my family who fled war, persecution and economic hardship almost three hundred years ago.  Continue reading “#ShareTheJourney”

#Election2016 ends, at last!


Finally, the toxic and awful #Election2016 comes to a merciful end.  Like a huge number of Americans, I find both @HillaryClinton and @realDonaldTrump to be ill suited for the presidency.   According to most polls, the majority of Americans would prefer to have another option for the nation’s highest office – just about any other option!  Yet, we are stuck with these two major party candidates and one of them will become the president on January 20, 2017.   Continue reading “#Election2016 ends, at last!”

Goodbye Britannia…

So, the first day of the new world created by the #Brexit has revealed a lot.  Roughly $2 trillion were stripped out of the global markets, the pound sterling hit a 36 year low against the dollar, the FTSE and DOW are down over 3% and this is being proclaimed a success for Britain.  If so, what does failure look like?  

Global economy, meet irrational nationalism!  The world’s economy grows when Continue reading “Goodbye Britannia…”